Hot off the press, new Green Party policies which will feature in our manifesto (out in March) are coming thick and fast, and as you would expect housing is right at the top of our agenda.
We say the next government must build 500,000 homes for social rent.
There are lots of ways of measuring ‘social rent’ and by massaging the figures Boris (and others) has classed houses that you would need to earn £80,000 per year as ‘affordable’.
The Green Party takes this issue seriously though. By social rent we mean homes that you can afford if earning £13,000 per year, half the average wage.
We have done the maths, and the issue here is not can we afford these homes, it is quite simply that we cannot afford not to build these homes. They would be built by Councils, Housing Associations and Cooperatives.
All house building has an environmental impact, but the Green Party has analysed the land use returns from all Councils in the UK and the land exists to build these homes, in fairly high density (by which we mean 4 or 5 storey buildings). These homes would be built to high environmental standards making them cheap to run.
We will not build on the Green belt, and we will give higher priority to biodiversity when selecting sites than is currently the case.
We can and must do this. If a government cannot house its people in decent homes, what is it for?
But there is more.
We would impose a land value tax.
And we will move to transform the rental sector to make it into a market which provides homes for those who need them and not just profit for property owners.
We will do this by introducing a new mandatory form of tenancy, which will provide for automatic renewal after 5 years unless the property owner wants to sell or move into the property themselves (tenants can leave on giving 2 months notice), increases in rent only in line with inflation, and we would establish a commission to develop proposals for rent control. This policy is broadly speaking how the rental market operates successfully in Germany.
These are comprehensive, carefully worked out policies to dramatically rebalance the housing market. The current market in housing is emphatically failing and this cannot be allowed to continue. The current policies of simply allowing property for investment purposes has led to an unsustainable market which is failing to meet the basic needs of huge sections of our society.
Here in Tower Hamlets we are falling victim to these developments. See a grotesque example at Bishopsgate Goodsyard (see my objections here http://bit.ly/1CLrOgJ) where an unwanted development threatens a whole neighbourhood here in Shoreditch. This area desperately needs redevelopment, but one that provides homes for people to build lives in.
The old parties do not want to discuss this issue. Only the Green Party has a vision which will provide decent homes for everyone.